Testing for Bakelite / Catalin is remarkably easy. To put it quite simply: all you have to do is get some silver polish containing simichrome and rub it on the piece using a paper towel. If the paper towel shows a yellow color, it is Bakelite / Catalin. If it doesn’t, it is not. (There are some exceptions to this, such as black Bakelite or Catalin, which may not show positive results).
What I like about this test is I don’t have to try and identify the subtle differences in smells when the piece is run under hot water. I don’t know about you, but I find those kinds of test very difficult. I think I have a decent sense of smell, but the moment I over-think it I can’t tell the subtle differences in smells of different plastics – I am a human, after all, not a sniffer dog!
It’s worthwhile knowing this simple simichrome test as Bakelite / Catalin is becoming increasingly sought after and rare and has considerably more value than other plastics, whether it’s used in jewelry or other objects. It can also be remarkably lovely.